Coastal Communities Bounce Back After Storm Ciaran Batters UK

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Bosham high street floods at high tide. West Sussex. Storm Ciaran. Photo by A.Howse
Bosham high street floods at high tide. West Sussex. Storm Ciaran. Photo by A.Howse

Ciaran is biggest gale since The Great Storm of ‘87

The storm ‘clean up’ and recovery work continues on the south coast of the United Kingdom, as well as several other areas across England and France, who were all hit with record wind speeds and high tides at the beginning of this month.

Storm Ciaran was the most intense storm to hit the British Isles since the ‘Great Storm’ of autumn 1987 according to the Met Office (United Kingdom Meteorological Office). A shipping forecast severe gale warning was issued on Wednesday 1st November (in Plymouth in Devon) which read:

“Southerly gale force 8 veering westerly and increasing violent storm force 11 or hurricane force 12 later” The sea state was declared likely to be: “Very rough becoming high or very high later”

On Thursday 2nd November the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Resilience Forum announced a ‘major incident’. A ‘major incident’ was also declared on the island of Jersey. The Hampshire fire service warned that there was a “potential risk to life” and damage to buildings, falling trees and flooding were reported. (1)

The highest wind speeds in England were recorded on the west coast on the night of 1st November reaching 63 knots or 72 miles per hour in Dorset and Cornwall. Two French weather stations in Brittany reached gusts of over 100 knots or 115 miles per hour. Tragically the Met Office described how “Across western Europe more widely, heavy rain and flooding linked to storm Ciarán reportedly led to at least 13 deaths.” (2)

Ciaran hit areas on the south of the UK, the Channel Islands and the west coast of France the hardest. Many other regions and counties are also attributing ongoing electrical and flooding related problems to Ciaran’s intense wind and rainfall. (3)

A tornado was reported on the eastern side of Jersey in the Channel Islands. 150,000 homes mostly across the west of England and Wales were left without electrical power and millions of residents in southern England experienced power cuts. (2)

Fishbourne railway line floods, West Sussex, storm Ciaran. Photo by A.Howse
Fishbourne railway line floods, West Sussex, storm Ciaran. Photo by A.Howse

Buses waded through flooded roads bravely in Sussex and Hampshire while rail and flight services were widely cancelled. Ports such as Dover were closed until calmer conditions returned.

Ciaran clear up continues

As many residents finally enjoyed some dryer weather over last weekend the Met Office announced further caution because of another storm named Debbie, which crossed the country from the south on Monday bringing further blustery gales and heavily wet weather.

In Guildford and surrounding districts in Surrey three water treatment plants were without power after the massive gale caused serious problems resulting in thousands of homes without a supply of fresh water. There was some chaos as Surrey’s residents were advised only to drive on the roads if leaving home to pick up bottled water from one of the hastily set up water ‘pick up’ stations around the centre of the busy commuter city of Guildford.

Stream water gushes in Fernhurst Surrey. Photo by A.Howse
Stream water gushes in Fernhurst Surrey. Photo by A.Howse

The Royal Surrey Hospital also declared a major incident because of the lack of water supply and local care homes were also put under pressure as they strived to provide provisions for their vulnerable residents. (3)

After Surrey residents spent the first few days of November rushing about looking for supplies of bottled water, a week later on the 9th November Surrey Live news reported that:

“Thames Water said they have fixed the issue at Shalford treatment works which left thousands of homes in Surrey without a water supply this week – now a new issue has arisen at a different water treatment centre. 504 postcodes are now affected by a fault at Ladymead Water Treatment Works” (3)

Thames Water apologized to customers and advised that a £30 compensation would automatically be applied to their account for water shortage affected households. However local residents who had lost water and dealt with low pressure for a week complained to The Guildford Dragon news. Many Surrey locals are annoyed about the lack of communication with Thames water, blaming decades of underinvestment since the utility companies’ privatisation, for the inability to deal with the relatively unextraordinary amounts of rainwater at the beginning of the winter season. (4)

Night view as roads flood in Chichester harbour West Sussex, storm Ciaran, photo by A.Howse
Night view as roads flood in Chichester harbour West Sussex, storm Ciaran, photo by A.Howse

Not everyone was upset by flooded roads, electrical outages and transport problems. There was some cheer in a pub near Chichester in West Sussex which unexpectedly benefitted from the unpassable overflowing roads down to the picturesque harbour. The small friendly team at The Berkeley Arms finally relaxed last Sunday night after a whole coach load of tourists decided to order lunch at once, at this handsome traditional pub.

After being unable to travel on further to their original Solent seaside destination the day trip visitors were happy to find a warm welcome at the inn. “It was a bit hectic but we managed to serve everyone with a good hot meal.” The Berkeley Arms bar lady admitted with a smile. (5)

Boat floods, rainbow on horizon, Chichester harbour, Photo by A.Howse
Boat floods, rainbow on horizon, Chichester harbour, Photo by A.Howse

(1) ‘Storm Ciaran: Major incident declared on south coast of Hampshire amid high winds and heavy rain’ Steve Deeks, The News (Portsmouth) 16th November 2023 ‘Storm Ciaran: Major incident declared on south coast of Hampshire amid high winds and heavy rain’ Steve Deeks, The News

(2) ‘Storm Ciaran, 1 to 2 November 2023, Met Office, UK ‘Storm Ciaran, 1 to 2 November 2023, Met Office UK

(3) ‘504 more Guildford postcodes without water due to new Thames water issue.’ Lucy Williamson, Surrey Live, 9 November 2023 ‘504 more Guildford postcodes without water due to new Thames water issue.’ Lucy Williamson, Surrey Live

(4) ‘Anger with Thames Water Remains Over Its Handling of Water Supply Interruptions’ Martin Giles, The Guildford Dragon, 8 November 2023 Anger with Thames Water Remains Over Its Handling of Water Supply Interruptions’ Martin Giles, The Guildford Dragon

(5) ‘The Berkeley Arms’ Pub in Old Bosham, Sussex, 16 November 2023 ‘The Berkeley Arms’ Pub in Old Bosham, Sussex website